Carving out time to learn something new

A beginner whittler is usually timid.


“After so many years, you get to know the wood and go in it for the big chunks, but when you first start it’s little chips,” Del Otter told a table full of life-long learners at the Kenai Senior Center on Tuesday during a whittling class.

Otter, of Sterling, has been whittling for about 20 years and is the founder of the Kenai Peninsula Wood Carving Club, an opportunity that has given him the chance to share his passion for carved art.

“The first thing I ever carved was a polar bear,” Otter said. “And I thought it was really neat. From then on, I was hooked.”

Otter brought tools, wood and paints to the senior center and led a group of 10 through the carving of a chickadee magnet. He took care of the beginning shaping for the small bird, but guided his students through carving the small details into shape.

“I started to try and learn how to whittle last year,” Melinda Hershberger of Soldotna said. Hershberger is an artist, working mostly with paints, but has been whittling to add another artistic outlet to her repertoire. “I’ve been timid with my cuts so far. I want to learn, though, that’s why I’m here.”

Otter leads whittling lessons throughout the year. His next demonstration will be on Saturday at the Sterling Senior Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

He explained, though, that the end time is flexible, since you only know you’re done whittling when you’re tired of carving.

Reach Kat Sorensen at


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